Charles Sherman Chapman was born in Duluth, Minn., in 1926. His family was of modest means during the Great Depression, and he started working from a young age. He later remarked that he earned the money to buy all the clothes he ever owned starting when he was a teenager. Because of his family's difficult circumstances, Mr. Chapman attended four different high schools in Minnesota and Michigan.
In 1943, on the day after his graduation from high school, he joined the U.S. Marines, and he served as a corporal in the battle of Iwo Jima against the Japanese in early 1945, working in radar and communications. He was preparing for the invasion of Japan when the atomic bomb was dropped and World War II
ended. He was discharged in 1946.
Upon arriving home, he attended college at the University of Detroit and Wayne State University in Detroit on the G.I. Bill while also working. A few months after beginning college, he met Mary Elizabeth Carleton, and in 1948 they were married.
He graduated summa cum laud from Wayne State with his bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering in 1950 and went on to get his master of automotive engineering from the Chrysler Institute of Engineering in 1952. He continued to take night engineering and business classes for the next 14 years, earning a master's of business administration from Michigan State in 1966, and accumulating the equivalent of a second masters of engineering.
In 1956 he joined the Buick Motor Division of General Motors
, working in the design and development of automatic transmissions. In his 11 years as an engineer at Buick, he earned eight patents related to transmissions and braking systems. During his time at Buick, he received regular promotions, eventually becoming assistant chief engineer.
In 1967 he moved with his wife and five children to Frankfurt, West Germany, where he was chief engineer for General Motors' Opel division through 1975. During some of those years, Opel was the best-selling car company in Germany, outselling even Volkswagen.
In 1976 he moved to Melbourne, Australia, where he served as managing director of the General Motors Holdens (GM/H) car company until he retired in 1988. At retirement, he was a vice president of General Motors, in charge of Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
Upon retiring, he and his wife moved to Evergreen. Mary died in 1993 after several years of suffering from cancer. In 1994, he married Delores Spinzig.
Mr. Chapman was an easy person to be with. He was humorous, generous, friendly, positive, caring and smart. He was also active athletically throughout his life, working out regularly each morning, skiing into his 70s, and he was a lifelong golfer.
He is survived by his wife, Delores; his five children, Steve, Sally, Joe, Bill and Sue; three stepchildren, Susan, Jeff and Barbara; 10 grandchildren, six step-grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and one great-stepgrandchild.